With eight legs of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series complete, Oman Sail’s Extreme 40’s Oman Air and The Wave Muscat are getting ready to take to the water for the last time this year. The ninth and final event of the Series will be held in Marina Bay in Singapore from the 7th-11th December, and with the final now in sight and five teams in contention for a podium place, including The Wave, Muscat, the battle will be for sure extremely tense. The event in Singapore will also be added by Britain’s Chris Draper, double World Champion and Olympic Bronze medallist in the 49er class, to the team, who will be stepping into the role of Skipper on Oman Air.
This year’s Series, which kicked off in Muscat in February, has been incredibly hard-fought, and going into the final in Singapore, Oman Air is currently eighth overall. Their teammates, and reigning champions The Wave, Muscat, are fifth and within striking distance of the podium. The Italian team Luna Rossa lead the overall championship, with the French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild just one point adrift. The teams of Emirates Team New Zealand, Alinghi (SUI), and The Wave Muscat, all have a chance of making the 2011 podium.
The Wave Muscat’s Bowman, Khamis Al Anbouri, who made it into Oman’s history books when he won the 2010 Series onboard The Wave, Muscat making him the first Omani to stand on top of the podium at an international sailing event, spoke on the level of competition this year. “I think the competition has been tougher then ever this year, but that is great for the sport. We have been sailing against Olympic medallists, and America’s Cup sailors such as Dean Barker, and a lot of the time we have been beating them! But you can’t take that for granted and can never expect to win. All the teams this year have been really impressive and I am sure they will come out fighting in Singapore.”
Oman Sail have also announced that British sailor Chris Draper will take over as helm on Oman Air for the final Act. Draper will be replacing triple Olympic Gold medalist Ben Ainslie, who has skippered Oman Air for the last three European legs of the Series, in a break from his 2012 Olympic preparations.
Draper reflected on the pressure of coming into the Series so late in the game. “It is going to be really hard coming in for the last event when all the teams are at the top of their game. On the plus side though we will head to Singapore with nothing to loose, and everything to gain and for certain there is plenty of fun exiting racing to be had.”
An Olympic Bronze medalist for Team GBR at Athens 2004, Draper is no stranger to Extreme 40 sailing. In 2008 he took the helm of Oman Sail’s Masirah, and after finishing fourth in his debut Series, went on to lead the team to victory in 2009, after winning four of the six events. Chris will be joining David ‘Freddie’ Carr, part of his 2009 Series winning team, as well as Australian tactician Kinley Fowler and Omani Bowman Nasser Al Mashari, and after two years away from the Extreme 40’s, is looking forward to mixing up the fleet for the final event.
For Nasser, who was part of the winning Oman Sail team in Singapore during the Extreme Sailing Series Asia 2009/10, returning to Singapore will be a proud moment. “Last time I sailed in Singapore I was a trainee and I will now return as full member of the team. I feel really proud to be sailing in Singapore again and I am excited to be sailing with Chris. I think it is going to be a really exciting last event!”
Oman and Singapore have strong historical maritime ties, and Omani’s were the first sailors to sail to the Far East over a thousand years ago, travelling the seas between Oman and China on the silk and spice routes.
In 2010 the Jewel of Muscat, a traditional Arabian sailing ship built to a ninth century design, was given as a gift to Singapore from the Sultanate of Oman. Sponsored by Oman Air, the ship is a symbol of the international friendship, trading and discovery Oman and Singapore have shared over the centuries. It set sail on the historical voyage across the Indian Ocean, following the ancient trade routes between Oman and Singapore. The ship is now permanently housed in the Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium in Singapore, the first and only museum to showcase the Asian maritime history.
Oman Sail have dominated the Extreme Series for the last two years, claiming victory in 2009 and 2010. Although it will be extremely difficult to lift the Series crown in Singapore, The Wave, Muscat’s Khamis Al Anbouri is confident they can claim a podium finish. “Our aim is to finish on the podium in Singapore. We have won two events this Series and we intend to try our hardest to make that three in Singapore and make everyone in Oman proud.”